My dad said I was born on the night of the full moon and that made me special. The moon, he told me, shone brightly down on me and touched me with a little of it’s moon magic. Although my mom discouraged him from filling my head with “such nonsense,” he told me that the moon magic meant that I was unique. He called me his little Moonshine girl.
Mom didn’t believe in magic. Once I asked her to take me to this new shop that had opened up in town. They sold an assortment of goods: esoteric books, curio items, and what they termed “elixirs and potions”. Mom thought it was creepy or maybe even a little silly. I, on the other hand, was fascinated by the place. They had wands, and an alchemy station and even a cauldron. Mom said they were all fakes. “None of this is real,” she told me.
Although I trusted what Mom said, I wasn’t sure if in this situation she knew everything there was to know about the subject of magic. However, I was wise enough to sense that it made her uncomfortable, so I didn’t push her on it.
For as long as I can remember, I had this funny little doll. I called him D’Arcy. D’Arcy was the name of a character in a book that my sister Sarah read to me. D’Arcy was the man that no one liked but he was secretly a good guy and eventually the girl in the story figured out that he was good and she and he got married and lived happily ever after.
Mom thought that my doll was a girl, but somehow I knew that he wasn’t. I knew Mom didn’t like my doll. She thought it was bad. I figured that someday she’d realize that he was really good all along.
Mom didn’t know it, but part of the reason I kept visiting the Elixir shop on my own and the reason I wanted my own chemistry lab, was that I thought I might be able to find some way to bring my doll, D’Arcy, to life. Then I’d be able to prove to her that he really was good.
Of course, these silly ideas never panned out. Eventually I stopped playing with D’Arcy. As I progressed through school, D’Arcy became less important to me.
I did things like normal kids. I went ice skating in the winter. I hunted eggs in the spring. And I spent time with my big sister and brother. I idolized both of them. Sarah I followed around like a puppy. I think she took delight in teasing me.
Once, Sarah told me she’d let me hang out with her and her friend, Shayla, but I had to do one thing first: I had to go with her to the cemetery and listen to a ghost story. If I didn’t get scared, she said, I could hang out with her. If I did, then I had to leave her alone. I told her I wasn’t afraid of ghosts and off we went to the cemetery. Sarah got out a flashlight and began her story. She was very dramatic, but I sat through the whole thing.
Truthfully, I was really scared. I didn’t know if ghosts were real, but I didn’t want to find out. Still, I kept still and listened intently. I just smiled when Sarah was through. “Can you tell me another,” I asked. My voice didn’t even shake! Haha! Sarah had to let me hang with her.
With Chris, he was so much older than me, I just worshiped him. I wanted to be just like him. On the day of his graduation from high school, I told him I was going to be exactly like him when I grew up.
“Study hard,” Mom told me, laughing. “Your brother managed to get scholarships in both athletics and art.”
“You can do that, too,” said Chris as he ruffled my hair. “Just work hard.”
I nodded and was determined to do just that.
When Chris went away to college, I was pretty sad. The only consolation I had was that he promised to call, and he said if my grades were good, I could come to his college graduation.
I got straight A’s. I was on the honor roll. People said I was a genius. What they didn’t know was that I was just highly motivated.
Chris’ graduation was one of my most cherished memories, but it was marred by the fact that up until that moment, I hadn’t known he had a girlfriend named Shasta. He introduced me to her. I thought she was ok at first because she liked science and was really smart, but I hated that she took up so much of my brother’s attention.
Then she started coming to our house and Chris proposed to her. Everyone but me was excited. They got married on the beach, which mom and dad said was romantic. I liked the cake, but not much else. And she moved in with us.
Ok, so that part wasn’t so bad. It meant that Chris didn’t move out, but nothing was ever the same with Shasta there. Chris never had time to spend with me anymore. Not like he had before she came.
As if living with her wasn’t bad enough, Shasta got pregnant. Chris was so excited. Mom and Dad were thrilled to be grandparents. I congratulated them, but I wasn’t happy.
Then, they told me that I would have to share a room with the new baby. “It’s going to be a girl,” Mom said. “So we’ll put the crib in here. It will be like when you were small and Sarah shared your room.”
I told her that would be fine, but I didn’t mean it. And then, to make matters even worse, Shasta went into labor on my birthday. I hadn’t even blown out my candles yet when her water broke. Suddenly everyone was screaming and scrambling to get her to the hospital. Later Mom apologized, but it still hurt that no one was excited about my birthday.
I put on a good face for my parents, but I almost hated my niece, Sophie, when she was born.
Dad was the one who realized that I might not be as ok with the baby as I said I was. “You must be feeling kind of neglected, Moonshine girl,” he said to me one weekend. “Want to hangout with your dad today?”
“Sure,” I said sullenly. I’d been sullen for quite some time. Dad ignored my tone and took me out to the festival.
“We’ll do whatever you want,” he said. “But I think we should enter the hotdog eating contest if they have one.”
“Ew, gross Dad,” I said. But we ended up entering it anyway. Dad won. I had barely eaten half of my hotdogs when he had finished.
We took a postcard picture at a booth that day. It is my favorite possession. Only one week later my dad was dead.
Magic is a funny thing. For example, dad bought me sparklers to play with when we were together. I thought it was magical how they sparked and shined and how I could manipulate their light. Even though I had given up on the fanciful thought of bringing my doll to life, I still had a little belief left in me in things that might be unexplainable.
Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the apparition I saw on the day my dad died. He’d had a heart attack in the kitchen. My mom was in there screaming at him to get up. We all came running into the room because we knew something was very wrong.
I remember coming into the room saying, “Mom! Is Dad all right? What’s happening? Should I call the ambulance?” I looked over and saw a figure. It was dark and skeletal. It had a scythe. The Grim Reaper.
My voice trailed off and I didn’t make the 9-1-1 call I was asking if I needed to make. Somehow, I knew my dad was dead. It was too late.
And then, on the day of my dad’s funeral, I saw the figure again. It floated through the wall of my room where my mom had gone to put Sophie in her crib.
I rushed into the room. Sarah had gotten there first. I think she had heard my mom cry out or fall to the floor. But, when I did get there, I once again knew it was too late. Sarah was trying CPR, but I did nothing. I didn’t even get out my phone to try and call 9-1-1. The Grim Reaper stood over my mother and I swore that I saw her soul leave her body. I didn’t tell anyone what I had seen.
My parents’ deaths re-opened my eyes to the idea that one could maybe bring something to life…or back to life. Though I was really into science, I thought that maybe there might be something still undiscovered that could accomplish what would seem to be almost magical. Science may hold the answer, but I wasn’t going to ignore the esoteric.
I had never really stopped believing that magic could be real. After my parents died, I went back to the elixir shop that my mom had thought was creepy and a bit silly. I talked to the clerk, and he recommended some books for me to read.
I also got a part-time job at the cemetery. It might seem a bit morbid, but I had lost my fear of death. I figured that I might be able to learn something if I was around the dead more.
“Aren’t you afraid of seeing ghosts?” my friends asked me. The boys thought I was cool to work in a graveyard, but the other girls thought I was just nuts.
“I don’t believe in ghosts,” I said, even though I secretly hoped I was wrong.
My job at the cemetery was pretty mundane. If my friends knew what I actually did, I don’t think I would have seemed as cool or brave as they thought I was. In reality, I swept up the mausoleum and raked the grounds. I kept hoping that I would find out something about the afterlife while I was working there, but it never happened.
I never saw the figure of the Grim Reaper again. I never saw a ghost. I never learned anything from my time there. Nothing.
Eventually, I let go of the idea of ever finding out anything more than I already knew. I suppose I became like many other teens. I hung out with my friends. My brother taught me how to drive. I chatted on the internet with my girlfriends. I even babysat my niece.
Shasta and Chris eventually got pregnant again. They were thrilled. Me, I was less enthused. And just my stupid luck, Shasta again went into labor right in front of me! Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone else around. Chris was delivering one of his commissions and Sarah was out of the country with Shayla. It was just Shasta and me.
Thankfully, I called a friend to stay with Sophie, and I managed to drive my sister-in-law to the hospital myself. Chris met us there.
I thought things were a little rough when Sophie was born, but when they brought home Warren, I really felt alone in the house. My brother had his family, but I seemed to have no one.
I was just a glorified babysitter, I felt. So I started acting out.
When I wasn’t working, I hung out with my friends. I stayed out as late as I could to avoid going home. I also got in fights with Shasta. She got on my case for not helping with the kids, not helping around the house, and not letting her and Chris know where I was.
“I was just out with the guys!” I argued. “You know we weren’t doing anything wrong!”
“No, we don’t know that! You could be doing something wrong.”
“What more do you want from me?” I asked. “I have a job. I have straight A’s. I’m even the fucking president of the drama club!”
“Don’t cuss around me and the children!” Shasta yelled. “I don’t care if you are perfect. You owe us the courtesy of calling and letting us know what you are doing and when you’ll be home. There’s a curfew.”
I assured both Shasta and Chris that I would do what they were asking. But, I felt like they should trust me more because I was such a good student and I did show my responsibility at work. Still, I knew that I had no where to go if Shasta and Chris kicked me out. Sarah, who I could have gone to live with, had gone off to Shang Sim-la with Shayla. They were going to be out of the country for a year!
So I tried to do better, but of course I failed. The one time I missed curfew, Shasta caught me sneaking in. She was pregnant again and had a hard time sleeping at night. I had hoped that it wasn’t one of her bad nights, but I wasn’t so lucky.
“Stop right there, young lady,” she said. She’d met me at the door. I had stood no chance.
“We warned you that you’d be grounded if you missed curfew.”
“But I’m only a few minutes late!” I whined, trying to reason with her.
“No excuses. You know what the consequences are.”
I tried to reason with both Shasta and Chris, but nothing worked. I was only allowed to go from school to work and home again for a whole week!
It was supposed to be for longer, but Chris and Shasta got pretty distracted once their baby arrived…or I should say babies! This time Shasta went into labor at night while they were sleeping. Chris came into my room and let me know and then rushed her off. They came back with triplets! Two girls and a boy: Kallah, Kurtis, and Kayliegh.
I actually felt pretty sorry for Chris and Shasta. Our little house was barely big enough for a family of 5, let alone 8!
It was no surprise that Chris and Shasta wanted to move. I, however, did not want to leave the house I had grown up in. This was the place that my parents had lived. If we left, I wouldn’t have even this small connection to them. But, no matter what I did to try to convince Chris to let me stay at Mom and Dad’s house on my own, he refused, saying I was too young.
“I love this house, too, Nat, but it’s just too small.”
So we moved to a larger house uptown. Despite it being brick, it was a fairly modern house with a lot of windows.
I hated it.
I didn’t care that the house had an art studio for Chris, a giant kitchen, a room big enough for all of the babies and a nursery. I didn’t care if my room was huge and all mine. I hated Chris’ house. It never, ever felt like mine.
I think triplets are a punishment not a blessing. Three babies at once is impossible to handle. These weren’t even my children, but I had to pitch in and help. No matter how unhappy I was, I really couldn’t leave it up to Chris and Shasta alone. They were barely able to hang onto sanity as it was.
Even with my help, though, taking care of the triplets proved too much for my brother. He was doing well enough to afford this huge new house with the sales of his paintings. But to keep making money, he couldn’t be interrupted to attend to dirty diapers, multiple feedings and tired toddlers.
Of course, both my brother and Shasta accused me of not helping enough.
“Look, I’m sorry, Ok?” I told Chris. I knew he was stressed out and tired. I wasn’t trying to get into a fight with him. “I just can’t help out as much as you need. I have a JOB. I have school. I’m in several extra-curricular activities. Mom and Dad wanted me to get scholarships like you did, but I can’t get them if I have to skip these things to take care of the babies. I just can’t do it!”
Chris, for once, listened to me. I admit to pulling out the worshipful little sister card. I reminded him that I had wanted to be just like him. And then I let myself tear up.
“I am doing the best I can,” I whined, tears falling melodramatically down my cheeks. “I never get to have fun anymore! I’m always here or at school or at work. I don’t have a social life and prom is coming up!”
Chris, of course, stood no chance against my tears. If my arguments weren’t enough to sway him, I had known that my emotions would. He and Shasta agreed to start hiring some part-time sitters.
I was relieved.
As winter progressed, my life became much more enjoyable. I was still pretty busy, but I had some time to spend with my friends again. I was even asked to the junior prom by Alesondro Whitefish, who I’d known forever. We said we were going as “just friends” but I was secretly hoping there was something more.
There was always something a little different about Alesondro that I was drawn to. He had long hair like the soft fur of a mink. He had caramel skin that was smooth and clear of the acne and patchy hair of our classmates. He also had eyes the color of topaz, which sparkled and shined brighter than any other kid in my class. All of that may sound a bit poetic, but I swear it’s an accurate description.
Some of the other kids at school said that Alesondro was a vampire because of his eyes, but I disagreed. Vampires’ eyes were different. Alesondro’s didn’t glow…they flashed. And he didn’t have sharp teeth like a vampire. And honestly, all of the vampires I had met had dull skin, not the smooth buttery caramel of Alesondro’s. And really, the best reason to doubt that Alesondro was a vampire was that he didn’t over-heat in the sun like they tend to do. We’d been playing together for a long time. I remember having him over for tag or soccer in the yard at my parents’ house and he never had to go in early or risk getting burned.
No, Alesondro might be special, but he wasn’t a vampire.
Of course, my prom plans with Alesondro were ruined. I was spending a lot of time with him and our other friends. I sort of slipped back into my old ways. It’s really hard to treat your brother like a parent when he is just your brother.
I just didn’t think about Chris getting angry with me until he was and then I was always regretful.
So, the time I was actually caught out after curfew and brought home by the cops, I felt really terrible. I mean, I wasn’t doing anything more than playing pool with the gang at the Red Rooster, but it didn’t matter.
“Nat! I can’t believe you would do this to us,” Chris yelled at me the next morning. “You’re getting out of control. Shasta and I are at our wits’ end!”
“I’m sorry,” I said, but my apology wasn’t working this time. I tried tears but those didn’t work either.
“I’m sorry, too,” said Chris. “But this time you’re grounded until the end of the year. You won’t be able to go out with your friends.”
“But what about prom?!” I said.
“No prom. You should have thought of that before you broke curfew and were brought home by the police!”
“You can’t do that!” I wailed.
“I can. I have. You are grounded young lady!”
“Mom and Dad would never have done this to me!” I screamed, pulling out my best and most hurtful weapon.
“Mom and Dad aren’t here. As long as you are living with me, you will have to obey my rules.”
I stomped off to the living room and threw myself onto the couch. Chris retreated to his studio and turned up his music. I am not sure if he was working or working out. I didn’t care.
I don’t think I’d ever been so mad in my life. Sitting there fuming, I made up my mind. If Chris was going to be like this, I didn’t have to live with him anymore. To hell with him! I hated living there anyway.
My sister Sarah and her partner, Shayla, had just returned from Shang Sim-la. They’d They had bought a house and were planning to settle here in Twinbrook.
As soon as I had made up my mind to leave Chris’s house, I grabbed my overnight bag, stuffed it hastily with clothes and other items, and snuck out of the house so that no one would see me leave. I needed to be firmly established at my sister’s before I came back to get the rest of my things.
And I didn’t want to have to explain what I was doing. I also didn’t want to have to say good bye to my niece and nephew just yet. No matter how much I hated living with them, I really did love them. I would miss them.
I managed to convince Sarah to let me stay by telling just enough of the truth to get her sympathy and leaving out the bits that would have made her just as angry as Chris had been.
Lucky for me, she had a spare room in her house and I could use it.
The first thing I noticed about Shayla and Sarah was how sickeningly romantic the two of them were. It was sort of nauseating. Sarah informed Shayla that I would be taking the spare room. Shayla got this sort of sappy look on her face and said it would be fine.
The second thing I noticed about their house was that they weren’t living alone. They had a housekeeper. She was a strange woman named Delia Fleur. She made all of the meals and cleaned up the house, but other than that, she didn’t act like what I thought a housekeeper would act. And she certainly didn’t look like one!
“How do you like your room?” Delia asked me at breakfast after I had stayed my first night in Sarah’s house.
“It’s ok,” I said. It was a functional room. To me, it seemed to have been decorated for a boy. The color scheme was all blues. It had a twin bed, a night stand with a blue lamp, a large mirror hung over the dresser and there was a desk against the wall.
Sarah’s house had four rooms: the one that she and Shayla slept in, the room that Delia occupied, the blue room that I was given, and an unfurnished room.
When I asked Delia about that room, she just shrugged. “I’m just the gardener,” she said.
“I thought you were the house keeper,” I said.
Delia was a mystery. I couldn’t help myself from spying on her. She did take care of the large garden behind my sister’s house. When I asked Sarah about it, she said, “Oh, that’s Delia’s garden. She only agreed to stay with us if she could have the space out back for it.”
I thought that was strange. But then I took a peek into Delia’s room. What I found there astounded me. She had an alchemy workshop! It reminded me of the one I had seen in the Elixir shop. I had read a few books on alchemy, but I’d never actually seen anyone make one of the potions contained in the book. The proprietor of the shop had lots of potions on display, but I always thought they were just a gimmick, and not really real potions.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to dwell on the mystery that was my sister’s housekeeper/gardener. Instead, I had to worry about being asked to leave her house.
“Nat, you didn’t tell me that you had broken curfew,” Sarah confronted me. “Chris said that he had grounded you for being brought home by the cops.”
“I lost track of time,” I explained. “I hadn’t been doing anything wrong. The officer was a friend of dad’s. He took me home because I only had my bike and it was snowing.”
“That doesn’t matter, Nat. You lied to me.”
“I didn’t. I just didn’t tell you everything.”
“That’s lying. You can’t stay here if you are going to lie. I won’t allow you to stay out past curfew either. And I might ground you just like Chris did.”
“But I won’t do anything wrong!”
“Don’t make promises you might not be able to keep.”
“No. Shayla, Chris and I discussed it. You may stay here, but you will still be grounded.”
“But what about my junior prom?!”
Sarah shook her head. “You won’t be going.”
“But I had a date and everything!” I started to cry. I pictured how Alesondro would look in his rented tux. I pictured us dancing together. Maybe we’d be chosen as prom king and queen. Ok, that was wishful thinking, but it might have happened.
Alesondro was disappointed when I told him I couldn’t go with him, but he said he might have had to cancel anyway. “I didn’t realize what night it prom was on,” he said.
“What night it was on?” I asked, confused.
“Yeah. It’s a bad night for me.”
“Oh,” I said confused even more.
“Never mind,” Alesondro evaded. “I am sorry you got grounded, but that means I don’t have to disappoint you at prom,” he said. “We can get together when you’re done being grounded?”
“Sure,” I agreed. I wasn’t feeling it, though. I couldn’t believe he had been about to cancel our prom date!
Later, I would feel stupid for not understanding what Alesondro meant. I invited him to my birthday since Sarah said I could have friends over, but he once again said it was a bad night for him. I got angry and made him feel guilty about ditching me twice.
Eventually, I guilted him into showing up. He said that it was cloudy so everything should be fine, which caused me to feel even more confused about him. But when he showed up, the clouds lifted. We were talking just before I was going to blow out the candles on my cake. Alesondro made this sort of odd sound in the back of his throat and then he changed!
Suddenly I knew why people thought he was strange. I knew why prom and my birthday were bad nights for him as well.
He was a werewolf! I had heard they were real, but I’d never seen one. Suddenly I had a new mystery to discover. Unfortunately, Alesondro was so embarrassed about what had happened, that he ran away from my party. He wouldn’t talk to me or anyone else at school. Rumors were flying about him, but I refused to talk about it. I tried to get Alesondro to talk to me but he wouldn’t even return my phone calls.
I was pretty depressed about the loss of my friend and the boy that I thought might be my potential boyfriend. I didn’t think things could get even worse until I discovered why Sarah and Shayla had agreed to let me live with them even though I had lied about the reason I wanted to.
“Nat, we’re so excited!” Sarah gushed one Saturday morning. “We’re both pregnant!”
I had just eaten my breakfast. Their news made me feel slightly nauseous. I had to sit down.
“You’re both…?” I asked, stunned.
“Yes,” said Shayla. “We decided after we got back from China, that we wanted to have in-vitro fertilization. Our babies will be siblings because they came from the same sperm.”
“I know what it means,” I said. “But you wanted to do it at the same time?” I thought they were crazy. Hadn’t they talked to Chris about how hard having multiples was?
“Oh, we know it’s going to be rough at first, but we hoped that you would help…” Sarah said. She was smiling, glowing with her happiness. I wanted to throw up. I knew what they wanted from me; I was going to go back to being a glorified babysitter.
I forced myself to smile and look happy. I congratulated them both. I gave Sarah a hug and went up to my room. I had to work hard not to stomp or run up the stairs. I felt betrayed and used. I had planned to fling myself into my bed and beat up my pillow for how my life was turning out.
I was already crying before I even got there, so I almost didn’t believe what I saw when I shut my door (just barely avoiding slamming it).
“Hey. Have you read this? ‘Chess of Dummies’. It’s crazy. Want to try some of these chess moves out? I’m not sure they will work.”